Since I firmly believe that almost no one really knows what Teshuvah is and/or how to do it properly, I have a suggestion: take the Teshuvah test. Is there such a thing? Yes, I just made it up. Make a list of what specific Teshuvah on which you are working recently including today. Be specific. No statements like: I am working on praying better now, or I study more now. Those are generalizations of very large categories of Teshuvah, not specific accomplishments.
To get more specific about what Teshuvah really is, I thought I would give you a parable.
Let’s say that you are finishing high school and you decided to go to college. Your aspirations are to become a doctor. You are aware that the curricula for premed and med schools encompass many years or study and will require a vast amount of effort (and money). The study to know all that doctor stuff (you can see from that statement why I didn’t become a doctor), the years of practice by interning in a medical facility, and even the great expense to reach your goal will take a tremendous effort.
Finally, you become a doctor, maybe even a specialist, but then starts the on-the-job training. For the rest of your life you will continue to learn, improve, and keep up with changes in the medical field. Hopefully, it will all be worth it, especially if you are doing it with the welfare of your clientele in mind. If you are only doing it for the money, the prestige and to improve your golf score, you are missing the most important opportunity that being a doctor has to offer – helping others. You also need to realize the importance of doing it the right way. Nobody wants to go to a doctor who had a graduating average of only 70%. I would be worried if my doctor failed the test on the particular ailment that I am bringing to his attention.
Another example: Let’s say that you have been assigned the position of being a human being on planet Earth. This is a more grueling study program, and the on-the-job training program is much more extensive than becoming a doctor. Why? It starts at birth and isn’t over until you leave planet Earth. The subjects that require learning include “everything you need to know about life and how to be the best human being you can be.” This is much more intense a study course than being a doctor, since what you learn and how you live will determine your life forever and ever.
Fortunately, the Big Boss that runs the whole show gave us every bit of instruction on how to succeed and be as happy as can be. The Torah and all its supporting documentation is “the handbook of life” with everything in it to set you up for all eternity.
I am not saying it is easy; I am saying it is doable. Yes, it takes much effort for all of life, but the rewards to be gained for yourself and all the loved ones who depend on you, are beyond human comprehension.
Since I have talked ad nauseam about the necessity to follow Hashem and His ways as the only way to survival and the only way to thrive, I will not repeat myself here. But, I asked the question: would you go to a doctor if you knew he or she only graduated with a 70% average? Why would we want to be a 70% human being or even much less, there is not much of a future in it?
Picture someone needing brain surgery and going to a person who didn’t go to doctor school, but had extensive training in first aid. He also has seen all the doctor TV shows in the last two decades and learned a thing or two watching them. You are probably thinking: I have lost it giving such a ridiculous example, yet the much more difficult task that we all face “LIFE ON PLANET EARTH” we think we can do without education and extensive on-the-job training. Which is more ridiculous the man needing brain surgery without a brain surgeon, or our lives succeeding without studying and living the handbook of life?
The bottom line to all this is that the lifelong improvement, the lifelong getting this human experience to a livable level is called: TESHUVAH. The number of areas to work on in order to perfect ourselves is endless, since it is every aspect of life itself.
What needs Teshuvah? Everything that you do and say 24/7. In other words, every action that we take from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night and all that is in between, including every word we say. We could do everything according to Hashem’s instructions or we can do as most people do “wing it.” Hashem told us how to make our every action and word beneficial, and bring us to as tremendous a life as possible. Of course we can just do it our way, the way most people on Earth act, and become a 70% person or less for all eternity.
This is not rocket science. Since we do all these mundane acts daily, wouldn’t it be prudent to know the way that gives us the most benefit in life? As an example:
Do you know that we get dressed from right to left? We put on our right sock first then our left sock; our right shoe first then our left shoe; our right sleeve to our shirt first then our left sleeve. Then when we get undressed, we go left to right. If you are not doing that then start today and add it to your Teshuvah list. Does it sound silly and very unimportant to dress and undress that way? Physically maybe; spiritually it is extremely important. What brings us closer to Hashem is not just words, but actions. Something as simple as getting into a good habit of dressing the way Hashem instructed us is more than just doing a tremendous service to ourselves, it is Teshuvah.
We definitely don’t understand the spiritual benefits of any of the 613 commandments. But, when we find out how much more tremendous our lives can be forever and ever, we will wish we had given it much more attention.
A big part of the testing of this life is having complete faith and trust that only Hashem knows what is best for us. In His infinite mercy, Hashem told us exactly how to thrive, how to be happy and have the best of everything. The problem is our Yetzer Harah tells us: don’t worry, just do your own thing the way you want to and maybe you will survive, just maybe.
Doing Teshuvah is the act of perfecting ourselves using the only reliable guidance we have, the word of Hashem. If it is overwhelming to think that I have so much to learn and so little time to do it all, just remember what I have said so many times: Hashem does not judge us by what we know, He judges us by how we grow. The person who has the right positive attitude and works hard to become a perfect human being is better off than the one who thinks he or she knows it all and doesn’t need improvement.
All the problems of life that we experience are tests from Hashem to tell us we are in need of Teshuvah. If done properly and with the most positive attitude, all problems can disappear. I have been in contact with readers telling me about their severe medical problems, their severe financial problems, their fabricated list of why they can’t do this or that (such as move to Israel). It is all nonsense and it is all solvable. I have experienced every one of those problems as well as observing tens of thousands of people who are also human beings on planet Earth.
There is no problem that Teshuvah can’t solve. But, as long as you don’t believe it, that Hashem does not give us a test that we can’t pass, then you have no choice but to deceive yourself and put up with the problem.
THIS WORLD IS NOT RANDOM. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS BEING IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PROBLEM THAT ISN’T EASILY SOLVED. There is only the human attitude asking: why is this happening to me?
We have the greatest opportunity to help ourselves and our loved ones to an eternity far more joyous and pleasurable than we humans can imagine. We have the opportunity to solve all our earthly problems by just improving ourselves and passing the tests that these problems are giving. Teshuvah is the answer. Teshuvah is the solution to all that bothers us in life. Hashem gave us everything we need to live the highest level of happiness possible.
We have the choice of living with good habits or bad habits – there really is no choice, since everything we do and everything we say is either to our advantage or a hindrance. Hashem gave us the opportunity and the plan to have a wonderful carefree life, why would we want anything less? His Torah instructions guarantee it.
Don’t let your flawed physical opinion tell you otherwise. Do Teshuvah on everything you do, and you can have it all – be a 100% human being (you even will experience good health, and not need to go to a 70% doctor or less).
One additional suggestion: every morning and every evening make the statement: "I love Hashem," and really mean it. More Teshuvah accomplished. I also keep it as a bumper sticker. Since I don't have a car, a bumper to put it on, I just keep it handy to look at all day.
There are more specific helpful hints to doing Teshuvah in my book. Get your electronic copy by Email by clicking the "Buy Now" button at the top of the right column.